The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

Finding My Bearings

By
Ralph
http://pobox.com/~res

Hi Ed,

It's fun to come back to your website from time to time and see what's new, especially the graphics!

I haven't heard much from the old (Internet) gang in the last few years. It's been a time to learn lessons and move on. I do drop in on www.wcg.org once a month and watch the average daily income sink (who knows what the actual numbers are, though). I have contacts with a small number of people in the ?CGs, still, but they don't have anything good to report, it seems.

I believe your website was instrumental in helping me to get my bearings, although it's hard to remember now just what happened. Somewhere around the Kessler letter (late 96) things began to click and my brain started working better. I was doing volunteer work in an SDA TV studio, helping in the audio booth. When my brain started clearing up, I suddenly found that I was able to handle distractions and make on-the-fly decisions better, and I was soon running the audio board part of the time! It seems that it is possible that having screwed-up beliefs can seriously hamper one's mental capabilities.

Soon after that I lost my job and found a new one at Intel, doing work that was much more demanding than anything in my recent past, and enjoying it and getting better at it all the time. Reflecting back, my decision to (re-) join Worldwide Church of God at the end of 1990 was a career disaster. I had stagnated ever since, consuming my resources with Bible study and other activities. It wasn't a waste of time-but the results I got from it were indirect at best. At least I will not be sucked in again by anyone trying to tell me what the Bible really says, and if anyone does try I will know to focus on the reliability of the Bible itself and not spend time on assumptions piled on top of meaningless assumptions. In once sense it was all a horrible waste of time, but I suspect that given my beliefs and prejudices, it was still the fastest way out for me. And as it turns out, I'm not in any hurry to get anywhere anyway.

It took about a year-from late 1996 to late 1997-for my brain to crank all the way up to operating speed. If your website was an influence (and I think it was), it would have been toward the end of that period. One Saturday in the fall of 1997 I took a "day off" from church (SDA) and my volunteer recording work to go to lunch with some UCGers. There was nothing eventful that came out of that day-there were some strange theories offered at lunch, but nothing new at all-but for some reason I did not go back to church the next week and I haven't been back since.

It was the one week break that triggered it, not lunch. I just stretched it out, from a week to months to years, using the time to investigate things for myself. It all hit me, again, for the second time in my life, that much of this Christianity stuff was assumptions built on other assumptions, and people using (and abusing) other people. I maintained and still maintain that there are core spiritual principles that operate within Christianity and elsewhere, but too often they operate in spite of what is being taught.

I learned a lot from my SDA volunteer work. The pastor of the local church is an internationally-known televangelist, and I knew him personally and had a chance to work behind the scenes, observing all. There are no horror stories to report. This is a sincere and honest individual. But, unfortunately, I came to discover how evangelism works. In some of my earlier non-Christian years (post-Worldwide Church of God, pre-rejoin) I had had the opportunity to study at length about how the mind operates and how this information can be used to "register" people for one cause or another. Working behind the scenes, I was able to observe that SDA evangelistic campaigns work along simple, well-known, non-spiritual sales principles. (This should also ring a bell for students of Herbert W. Armstrong.)

My real undoing was Herbert W. Armstrong himself. He challenged us to not believe things because he said them, but because the Bible taught them. When I came back to Worldwide Church of God (at 40 years old-I left when I was 21), it was with the express intent of proving or disproving the teachings. It was a simple matter, it turns out, to disprove them, but I was so Bible-illiterate that it took me several years of study before I could clearly see the light. By that time Worldwide Church of God, though, was already in the process of dismantling itself, and I didn't want miss out on the exciting conclusion! I hung around until fall of 1995, when the excitement had pretty well faded.

In the process of testing the Worldwide Church of God teachings, in the early 90s, I became involved (somewhat covertly) with several public Bible discussions on Fidonet, a network of linked BBSs of which I was a member sysop. This was before Internet access was widely (and cheaply) available. At first I defended WCC teachings but eventually I had to either shut up or begin to consciously promote things that were not true. I remember when I was trying to defend the sabbath and I actually READ the Worldwide Church of God sabbath booklet, looking for scriptures I could quote. Unfortunately I didn't find any. I did learn, however, how people who worshipped on Sunday were actually worshipping Satan, and all sorts of other indefensible nonsense that I couldn't possibly repeat in public.

Along the way I became acquainted with the issues underlying the reliability of the Bible itself, although that was more than I was ready to absorb at the time. In late 1997, though, I was ready, and did I ever become depressed! I had set myself up for it, though. When I rejoined Worldwide Church of God in 1990, it was with the attitude that "it's this or nothing." I supposed that I had pretty well researched everything else there was, and that there was nothing left. Oh brother.

Fortunately, by this time my "nonsense discriminator" was working rather well, having had gotten a lot of workout between Worldwide Church of God, the SDAs, and Christian dogma in general. This time I went first to a crisis intervention counselor (provided by my job), then to a psychiatrist for some antidepressants to tide me over, and then I went to work doing what I had carefully avoided up to this point. I began to take a hard look at what was true from MY point of view, irrespective of what anybody might be telling me. It wasn't too long before I didn't need antidepressants any more.

Back there in my earlier non-Christian days, when I was learning about minds and "registration," I was learning a lot of other things as well. I belonged to an organization that did workshops (expensive ones) that taught about all sorts of things. They freely admitted that many of their basic ideas came from Zen. While there were problems with the organization (it no longer exists), the stuff I learned there irrevocably altered the course of my life. It provided me with the background I needed to return to Worldwide Church of God and debunk it, and to understand the evangelistic campaign process, among other things.

The "truths" I learned there have come up again and again, as long as I am looking for them. They're not truths that one should believe in-they are truths that one is free to test as often as one desires. There are no "writings" of this organization, since they presented everything orally during the workshops (this was by design, and for good business reasons), but it is easy to find the principles in writing. These four principles from the Dharma the Cat website are a good example:

DHARMA THE CAT'S FOUR TRUTHS:

#1. Impermanence: In life, the only constant factor is change.

#2. Reciprocity: Whatever qualities you perceive in other people you draw out in them.

#3. Self-Description: Peoples judgements and criticisms of others (as distinct from detached observations) are self-descriptive.

#4. Accusation: Accusers are guilty.

#3 in this list has a more general side that I do not recall having come across in writing. It goes something like "All our communications are to ourselves." (THAT workshop cost $10,000-enjoy.)

Another good source of basic information is The Celestine Prophecy and its sequels by James Redfield. It should be treated like a series of clues, though. It's definitely not "scripture," and I wouldn't call it totally accurate either. It's about methods rather than facts. If you don't do the testing and evaluating yourself, you just end up with another silly set of religious beliefs. Understanding only comes through experience, and you can't get that directly out of a book.

Another subject has come back to my attention in recent weeks, relating to religion and science. After I left Worldwide Church of God the first time, I was in a seriously confused state. Worldwide Church of God had shown me that Christianity has some basic problems that it is not prepared to face up to, but I had discovered the same thing about Worldwide Church of God. (I wasn't quite to the point of treating that as "self descriptive," at least not yet.) Where to go? I didn't know. I spent the next 10 years hiding in my work and going through a slow recovery from Worldwide Church of God teachings and my alcohol-driven family (another story-the alcoholism drove my mother and I into Worldwide Church of God as an escape-whoops!). Then I tried atheism for a couple of years (after I started the workshops) but didn't like it. Then I adopted a non-specific spiritual track, but continued to investigate evolution. I was basically New Age, but didn't care much for the label because of all the scams.

As I studied evolution, it came to my attention that scientists who believe in evolution seem to be behaving very much like people in other religions. The basic principle is to look for things that agree with your theory and ignore and ridicule things that don't. Whether your theory is true or not is not the point-the real thing is whether you can persuade people that it is true.

If I hadn't explicitly mentioned evolution above, you probably would have assumed that I was talking about religion. But there's not that much difference at heart. The scientists of today were the clergy of earlier centuries. Titles have changed but people have not.

Am I advocating creationism? No way. I'm not advocating. But it doesn't pay to simply adopt accepted theories. There's no delegating the work we each must do to learn about what is true.

Well, I must say it's been an interesting last several years. My picture of God has transformed radically, and I no longer need to fuss about why he won't talk to me. (The fuss comes from holding beliefs that are out of sync with the truth.) I guess my current view is fairly typically New Age, although I'm inclined to avoid adopting specific theories as true and if things don't unfold as envisioned, that's not really a problem. I identify more with Buddhism than with Christianity, and I suspect that any path one follows will work, eventually. (Given enough lives!) I strongly suspect that, mercifully, the evildoer and the Good Citizen will often find themselves in similar situations when they die-we shall see, and that events on earth are not nearly so important as we sometimes imagine.

I can't claim to have visited every nook and cranny of your site, but here are a few links I have found useful that you may be interested in, that I did not come across. I believe I found a couple of these from http://www.dogchurch.org, and it seems like you do have a link to that one.

>Walk Away (Recovery from fundamentalism)

The Jesus Puzzle (Was there a historical Jesus?)

Forbidden Archaeology (Is there really a difference between religion and science?)

NDERF (Near Death Experience Research Foundation)

Feel free to publish this or not, as it seems useful. I have no interest in hate mail, but it's OK to include my name and email address.

Happy whatever-it-is-you're-doing-now,

Ralph

[email protected]

 

 

 

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